When you’re a kid you want to know everything. “Why is the sky blue? How do airplanes fly? Why? Why? Why?” Not true when you are an old coot. You don’t want to know anything. Anything new that is. “What kind of gas mileage do you get on that?” someone will ask me, pointing to my two-seater at the gas pump. “I don’t know,” I reply; (“I don’t want to know!” I say to myself. I’m sure it would be disappointing). When I was young and wanted to know everything I checked the mileage every time I filled-up. It was always less than I hoped for. It was a downer. I finally gave it up. If someone persists in asking, I tell them’ “It gets forty miles to the gallon, but I haven’t checked it lately,” They don’t hear me say under my breath, “I never check it.”
I live in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” world. It’s nice here. You should try it. What’s the weather supposed to be this weekend? I don’t’ know. I don’t want to know. I’ll be able to adapt to it; I’ve done it for more than 70 years; our species has done it for hundreds of thousands of years. I avoid weather forecasts. They’re wrong a lot of the time, at least the ones five days in advance. People cancel events on a bad forecast – a snowstorm that misses us – a thunderstorm that mysteriously never materializes. Why dread things in advance? Especially if there is a good chance the prediction will never come true.
Now, there is a new forecast mechanism under development. It won’t predict the weather; it is supposed to measure how well the hippocampus (hippocampi, to be accurate, since there are two) sections in our brain are functioning. It’s an important mechanism, dealing with short-term memory, among other things. If it gets messed up, we start forgetting what we are doing, or are about to do. That, “What did I come into the kitchen to get,” sort of thing. Of course our hippocampi get messed up all through our lives. We overload those portions of our brains when we try to do, or think about, too many things at one time. The portals are narrow, and just like traffic that backs up on the highway when three lanes get compressed into two, so do the short term memory lanes in our brain.
This new forecasting mechanism will continuously monitor our hippocampi functionality using an App on a smart phone or a wristband device. It will predict that we are headed for Alzheimer’s or some other senility affliction. We’ll know, but since there is no cure, why go to all the trouble to measure it and give ourselves a bleak view of the future, ruining our present.
Us old coots don’t need a device to measure this; we do it all the time, have been at it since we first noticed memory lapses in our early 50’s. Every occurrence sent us into a panic. “Am I losing it?” We’d ask ourselves. Finally, we settled in and accepted the truth; we are deteriorating, physically and mentally. In addition, we have a legion of people that monitor our failing memories: spouses, children, grandchildren, neighbors, strangers and the severest and most brutal of all, our friends. Who, love nothing better than to witness a fellow old coot make a mental misstep and pounce on it. It’s a, “Better him than me,” kind of thing, until it’s our turn in the barrel.
We know we’re headed deeper into the murk. The science guys can keep their monitoring apps and wristband devices. When they find a cure for the defect they are monitoring they can come around and try to sell us the mechanisms. We won’t buy them, but they can try. We’ll respond with our 3rd most favorite “old coot” reply, “Leave me alone!”
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